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July 29, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Park Slope / Election Coverage

Josh Skaller is the machine candidate — the copy machine candidate

The Brooklyn Paper

A tight race for a rare open City Council seat in Brownstone Brooklyn was thrown into turmoil, however briefly, this week after one of the candidates copied another’s press release and passed it off as his own.

Josh Skaller, running well in a five-way Democratic primary for the City Council district covering parts of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Windsor Terrace, lifted passages about a widely criticized Park Slope development project from an e-mail sent a day earlier by his opponent Brad Lander.

Skaller’s wording was almost identical (see sidebar).

Initially, Skaller, an IT director, declined to comment about the apparent plagiarism, but later on Tuesday his campaign sent out a statement, calling the cut-and-paste job a “mistake.”

“This particular e-mail was intended to inform people about Monday’s rally,” said Steven Stites, a spokesman for Skaller. “It was a task assigned to a volunteer, who was trying to help the campaign. In a big campaign, unfortunately, mistakes happen, and it slipped through our fingers. Everyone was trying to help the residents of Carroll Street.”

The embarrassing blunder arose in an effort to get supporters to attend Monday’s protest outside the controversial condo development on that Park Slope street. Lander, the former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, sent an alert on Sunday asking people to attend the rally between Fourth and Fifth avenues. Skaller’s strikingly similar message hit area Inboxes on Monday morning.

“The developer is already allowed to build a substantial development ‘as-of-right,’” Lander wrote. “Neighbors may not have loved it, but it was within the rules, and included a front-garden area. But now he wants to change the rules and build even more units (where the garden was supposed to be).”

Hours later, Skaller chimed in.

“The developer is already allowed to build a substantial development ‘as-of-right,’” his statement said. “Neighbors may not have loved that, but it was then within the rules and the development included a front garden area. Now, however, the developer wants to change the rules and build even more units — where the garden was supposed to be.” Lander refrained from criticizing Skaller, instead focusing on the strong turnout at the demonstration.

“It’s great that a lot of people turned out to help their neighbors,” Lander said. “My goal was to get people there.”

Of course, an e-mail is not the first thing the two front-runners have shared this political season. Former presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean made the baffling decision to endorse both men in June.

John Heyer, a funeral director and an aide to Borough President Markowitz; Gary Reilly, an attorney; and Bob Zuckerman, the former director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, are also running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio, who is running for public advocate.

In cribbing from another politician, Skaller is certainly in good company. During the presidential election, then Sen. Barack Obama used a phrase coined by his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

And Vice President Biden gave up his 1988 run for president after it was discovered that he lifted passages from speeches by Neil Kinnock, a British politician, and Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.

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Reader Feedback

caroll from park slope says:
Wow this is the second thing the Skaller has done wrong, the first was paying off over party lines so he could have one person not enter the run for the position... Lets put one and one together, its starting to seem like he is cheating and robbing all over the place.
July 29, 2009, 8:44 pm
gaston from says:
This is the biggest controversy the Brooklyn Paper can come up with? Thank goodness we have such a clean election.

I'm really impressed that Skaller is not taking any money from any developers. That means much more to me than this supposed controversy.
July 29, 2009, 11:57 pm
caroll from park slope says:
Clean election, I still haven't seen that start yet. Skaller is not the type of person I would support. Is his paying people off, and stealing from other people. How would we know his not taking money from developers!!
July 30, 2009, 1:44 pm
Nancy D. from Cobble Hill says:
It is quite simple just look at the NYC campaign and Finance board website, all the contributers for each candidate are on there, it is clear that Josh Skaller is not taking any $ from developers.

What's your beef with Skaller? and who exactly is "he paying off"?
he is a very honest,smart guy who if elected will best represent the community of the 39th district.
July 30, 2009, 7:12 pm
Charles from PS says:
Josh Skaller is a competent and good person, and the type of Democrat we need representing these neighborhoods. Please: one of his volunteers making a rookie political mistake is no concern, especially since the message for the rally would be the same anyway. It wasn't a per se political event.

And for all those who are crying about the toughness of NYC politics, welcome to New York.
July 31, 2009, 11:09 am
Sam from Park Slope says:
What it does show, and very clearly I think, is that Brad Lander really knows about urban planning and smart growth, and Skaller doesn't. You don't just pick up that know how. Lander has been working on affordable housing and community development issues for about fifteen years now. He was the Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, and then became both a Professor of Urban Planning and the Director of the Pratt Center. He knows about how zoning works, how the BSA works, how affordable housing financing works, and he knows how to win the tough fights. Skaller has zero experience on any public policy issues. Being a volunteer with Democracy NYC won't prepare him for the complex reality that is NYC government and politics. I want a councilmember that knows how HPD works, how the DOB works, how the BSA works, and how NYCHA works. Skaller doesn't know about any of this. And this scandal proves it. I bet Lander actually wrote his piece.

The simple truth is that if Skaller is elected, he will be ignored by the rest of the City Council. He will ocassionally have a soap box and pose as an anti-development progressive, but he won't persuade anyone, and our district will go unheard.

We need a candidate that knows how to convince people so as to create good growth strategies. Brad will do that. He has people's respect. He is a convincing voice on the topic of smart growth urban planning.
July 31, 2009, 11:02 pm
Jeremy from Park Slope says:
Actually, having a volunteer make a mistake has nothing to do with personal knowledge of nyc government.
Aug. 4, 2009, 9:20 pm
Sandy from Kensington says:
Brad Lander keeps pointing out that he's the only candidate in the 39th with children in public schools. I wish he would stop sniping at Josh Skaller for placing his special needs son in a neighborhood private school!
Aug. 10, 2009, 3:40 pm
Peter Johnson from park slope says:
New news in Brooklyn politics, Jerry O’Brian is still trying to get Community leader, a man who is speaking on behalf of the people Candidate for the City Council District 39 George Smith off the board “this man just won’t give up, he won’t let the people down, I see him keep on trying”, It was old hand Jerry O’Brian vs. George Smith in Court today. Let’s guess who won, George Smith won. George Smith. I don’t know why people keep on trying to get him off; I feel park slope needs Change, someone who will speak for the people. Why not have a person who has organized 100’s of City events and dozens of charity events for a ton of different causes around NY area represent the great people of his district. Why not have a person who was born and raised in the district represent it.
Aug. 10, 2009, 11:31 pm

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